The world is our classroom
Hello, my name is Tressa and I am a junior at the Northwoods Community Secondary School or the charter school as it also known as. Today the topic is about the hands-on learning opportunities presented to us while attending this school. There are a lot of misconceptions about hands-on learning for us here, and I want to clear the air. When I talk about this to my peers at Rhinelander High School they think hands-on learning is building something for our final product in a project. That we build, or draw or sculpt something and that that is the hands-on learning presented to us. That isn’t the case at all. Hands-on learning isn’t making a classroom the only place we learn it’s making the world our classroom. We have amazing opportunities presented to us to make the world our classroom in both schools.
This past winter, the NCSS middle school students got to go visit the Ice Caves in Wisconsin near Bayfield at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore on Lake Superior. There the students crawled through caves, saw beautiful frozen waterfalls and walked across frozen lakes. They saw the beauty of the water captured, for a few month’s time, just stuck like that until the summer’s heat makes it flow again. One of things that students learned while on this outdoor classroom adventure was how this happened, and how the ice crystals form freezing, and learned about the geological formations. One of the students on the trip, Bridget Rich said, “It was extremely worthwhile having this experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I learned that absolutely anything is possible and that sometimes you just have to take the risk (go out of your comfort zone) and just do it.”
This year, students were selected to go to Treehaven, to learn about forestry, the environment and things that the DNR do to keep everything balanced. We had the opportunity to identify trees, birds, insect life and various other indigenous species to Wisconsin. We learned about how to measure trees, how to balance the environment and how the weather affects population growth and decline in all species. We spent those days outside every time, full of seeing and doing not just listening. We had guest speakers and explored new ways of doing things. Every month on the second Tuesday, we did activities, such as bird watching, hiking, snowshoeing, water sampling, etc.
Recently, we had the opportunity to go to the Festival of Nations in St. Paul, Minn., which RHS teacher Doug Nelson planned with one of his classes. Since there was room he invited a few NCSS students and my teacher, Ms. Ellerson to go with. The Festival of Nations is an event to learn from cultures all around the world. There we got to partner up and just explore and learn. They had a food court from around the world, passports you could buy and get stamped from each country, and then a demonstration arena where we got to see traditional dances and musical instruments. We got to try on cultural clothes and traditions from countries we may not have otherwise explored. We got to meet other students from different schools and participate in cultural performances. People’s eyes lit up when you asked them a question about where they were from, or how something was made. These people were happy to answer questions and show us, to teach the world and learn something new themselves. We took full advantage of the opportunity to learn more about the world around us.
We made the world our classroom and our curiosity the limit. That’s what hands-on learning is. It’s not always following the same eight hour schedule day. It’s taking charge and going out and answering your curiosity on trips with long bus rides and guest speakers. It’s meeting new people and learning from them, and not just from a book or a computer or someone talking in front of a smart board. It’s your choice to push forward in your own learning and what you take in. “Hands-on learning” isn’t necessarily building things with your hands but making bonds and strengthening your mind from experiences and the people you meet. People say the sky’s the limit, but if that’s the case we would have never made it to space. Nothing is the limit with curiosity and opportunities.